How Sam Darnold’s ‘weaknesses’ comment fueled the Patriots’ defense

“Well, I guess you’ve got to ask him if he was able to find any."

New England Patriots free safety Devin McCourty (32) celebrates with teammates Kyle Van Noy (53) and Stephon Gilmore (24) after intercepting a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
New England Patriots free safety Devin McCourty (32) celebrates with teammates Kyle Van Noy (53) and Stephon Gilmore (24) after intercepting a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets. –Adam Hunger / AP

While Jets quarterback Sam Darnold made plenty of mistakes in Monday’s 33-0 loss against the Patriots, perhaps his biggest error was the comment he made before the game even started.

Ahead of the game, Darnold told the New York Daily News that he was going to find the “weaknesses” of the Patriots’ defense:

“Their defense is good. They have been all year,” he said. “But just like any other team, they’re not unbeatable. So, we just go out there, find the weakness in the defense and keep working it. That’s what we’re going to do on Monday night.”

It was a lofty goal against a defense that has been so dominating, they’ve nicknamed themselves “The Boogeyman” and are currently leading the NFL in defensive stats. His comment only fueled the Patriots to prove just how few weaknesses they have, which was captured in the pregame huddle by Patriots’ safety Devin McCourty, who shouted Darnold’s choice of words and said that they came to “dominate”:

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“You didn’t dominate nobody. You didn’t work harder. He’s going to find your weakness!” McCourty said. “Your weakness!  Your weakness! Your weakness! All night our weakness. But you know what? We don’t come to play nobody, we came to dominate.”

According to cornerback Jason McCourty, Devin was hyping the team up before his speech, too.

“The one thing he said to us before he gave that speech when we were out warming up was every week there’s a storyline,” McCourty said. “We realize that as a defense. Every week, no matter how the game goes before or what happens, there’s always something that everyone is talking about. For us, the focus always comes back to us, especially in the secondary. We always feel like if we go out and dominate, we’ll win the game.”

Dominate they did, forcing Darnold to complete only 11-of-32 passes and throw four interceptions, as well as lose a fumble. Devin McCourty, who snagged one of those interceptions, had another response to Darnold after the game:

“Well, I guess you’ve got to ask him if he was able to find any of those [weaknesses] tonight,” he said. “We just wanted to disguise, try to give him different looks, roll into different coverages, and just try to make it a little tough on him.”

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Safety Duron Harmon agreed, saying the Patriots let their performance on the field do the talking.

“We don’t need no bulletin board talk,”  he said. “But we all noticed it. So we wanted to make sure when he watched the film, he realized: Ain’t too many weaknesses over here…I think he was still looking for it.”

Safety Terrence Brooks said that the “disrespect” only fired them up:

“It’s always going to spark you,” Brooks said. “Any time someone wants to disrespect you or say you’re not as good as they’ve seen on tape, there’s always a little chip on your shoulder about that.”

Perhaps Darnold realized just what he was dealing with when he admitted hat he was “seeing ghosts” in the first half. When Linebacker Kyle Van Noy heard Darnold’s comment, he said that their defense is “real.”

“He did?” Van Noy asked about Darnold’s remark. “Ooh. That’s the Boogeymen. It’s real…I can’t believe he said that.”

Van Noy believes the Patriots proved their strengths.

“We did a really good job tonight,” he added. “He was trying to find our weakness and we just kept trying to play to our strengths.”